Friday, February 18, 2011

Notes on a letter from the past.

I've just been posting another of my father's wartime letters on Letters from the Past. In this one, he is rejoicing at the confirmation that my mother was expecting their first child: me. Obviously, it is fascinating for me, and much of this letter is taken up with the news rather than the progress of the war and service life. But I am especially struck by the fact that at this time I seem to have been going under the name Caroline Mary - a sort of working title with the same initials as the name I ended up with - Christine Margaret.

I shall be fascinated to discover if the change to the name occurs before the birth - and how, for heaven's sake, did they know that it was a girl? Dr Kate Harrower was well known as an outstanding practitioner, but this knowledge was surely well beyond her powers. And how old-fashioned and wonderful the insistence on my mother stopping work - the fiercely feminist Dr H was obviously having none of this!

On a sadder note, the Willie Skinner referred to in this letter was, I think, a close friend of my mother's younger brother. She used to become emotional at the mention of his death even when I was an adult - a real underlining of the agelessness of the young who die in war. As my father rarely mentioned the serious business of war, but chose in my youth to dwell on the humorous moments - as when he emerged naked from the Mediterranean to find Churchill and Monty standing on the beach - I had to remind myself frequently that war meant death and misery. This was one of the few deaths to touch our family personally.


  1. Being flat out busy recently at the start of a new school year I hadn't taken a moment to actually read one of the letters before. But having a rather big task to do this weekend I took a moment to read one.

    How fabulous to such a record. And slightly disturbing to have your conception mentioned with such vigour!

    My father kept a handwritten diary every day of his life. After he died my mother burned every single page.

    He had evidently written of an argument they had had once and Mum didn't want anyone to read of it so she burnt the lot, not having the inclination to read the rest.

    Such a shame and a waste.

    I could not be angry but I was so disappointed.


  2. The link to your blog was discovered by an English/History teacher here in NSW and I am so glad she shared it! What a privilege for me to read your primary source family history! It is amazing to have this access and thank you for making it so.
    Regards, Deb Hogg (Sydney, Australia)

  3. Great to hear from you down there! (Really, that should be "yous" in good Glasgow parlance ...)